Not just potatoes: a plant discovered that people can grow on Mars
Despite the fact that scientists can already confidently say that mankind is able to grow potatoes in the Martian soil, new tests have found another useful product, which can grow on the red planet for future settlers from Earth. It is an ordinary Earth rice, albeit slightly genetically modified.
The results of their experiment told a group of interdisciplinary researchers from the University of Arkansas in the United States. The biggest problem facing Earth agrarians on Mars will be perchlorate salts. That is, of course, if you don't count low temperatures, radiation, and other little things.
The scientists were inspired in part by Andy Weir's best-selling novel The Martian, in which stranded Mars astronaut Mark Watney was forced to survive on the inhospitable planet by growing potatoes. OBOZREVATEL talked in detail about how Watney did it and what NASA scientists got out of it here.
But no matter how anyone likes potatoes and a variety of ways to cook them, the Martian settlers will need other products. So scientists decided to conduct an experiment with rice. It turned out that growing rice in simulated Martian soil is not that difficult.
"Rice can grow and survive in the Martian regolith with problems that can be overcome by controlling stress genes," the scientists report.
One of the biggest problems to overcome is the presence of perchlorate salts, which have been found in the soil of the red planet. They are considered toxic to plants.
Previously, scientists from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory created a mock Martian soil from the basalt-rich soil extracted from the Mojave Desert and called it the Mojave Mars Simulant (MMS).
It was in this soil that the researchers planted three varieties of rice: one wild and two others genetically edited to respond to stresses such as drought, sugar famine, or soil salinity.
These varieties were grown in parallel in a conventional soil mix as well as in a hybrid mix.
The experiment showed that although the plants could grow in MMS, they were not as well developed as those grown in soil and hybrid mixture.
They were able to find that replacing only one-quarter of the Martian simulant with regular soil resulted in improved plant development.
The researchers were also able to determine that 3 grams of perchlorate per kilogram of soil is the threshold beyond which nothing grows. Modified rice varieties can still take root if the soil contains 1 gram of perchlorate per kilogram.
Scientists are confident that it will be possible to grow genetically modified rice in Martian soil conditions.
In the future, the researchers plan to continue their experiments and go to the next level, using a Martian soil simulator called Mars Global Simulant, as well as other strains of rice that have an increased tolerance to higher salt concentrations.
They also plan to grow the plants in an enclosed chamber that simulates the temperature and atmosphere of Mars.
Previously OBOZREVATEL also told if people will be able to grow plants on the Moon.